Ponca City Commissioners approve resolution to reduce number of lanes on Grand Ave.

June 28, 2024 | Featured|Headlines

PONCA CITY — Ponca City Board of Commissioners approved a resolution to create a road diet on Grand Ave. by reducing the number of traveling lanes on U.S. Highway 60 Business, from Waverly Street east to U.S. Highway 177, and to execute an agreement with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation for landscaping improvements in the Central Business District. To watch the entire city commissioner meeting visit the City’s website here.

Chris Henderson Developement Services Director said that the City set aside $968,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds in 2023 to undertake a Streetscape Project in the Central Business District, specifically from First to Seventh Streets along Grand Ave. 

He said the project would add more green space downtown.

“The plans that are being prepared by the civil engineer in Enid are almost done as well as his engineer’s estimate which should be really really interesting because we really don’t know where we are at here,” said Henderson.

“The plans have 26 individual islands from First Street all the way to Seventh Street. Ponca City School District will pay for those islands between Sixth and Seventh Street. So that knocks down some of our cost.”

Henderson said it will take two weeks to construct each island.

Henderson said there have been lots of meetings on the topic including to change the angle of parking and that  ODOT has been contacted and that they agree with the plans but that they have to be memorialized in the form of a resolution.

Mayor Homer Nicholson asked about a bicycle lane.

Henderson said there will be no bike lanes downtown but that the road diet will be from four lanes to three.

“Two traveling lanes and a center turn lane. That is it,” said Henderson. He said the project could be completed six- nine months from now.

“We will analyze things around West Middle School and Lincoln Elementary to make sure we are not hurting them by going to fewer lanes. We still have a lot of time to prepare for that portion of the project.”

Henderson said no work will be done between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“But the money has to be obligated by the first of December so we have to have someone under contract hired and ready to go no matter what,” he said.

Henderson said he hopes to receive the final set of plans and an estimate in two weeks. He added that all of downtown will be fully handicap accessible at the completion of the project.

NOTES ON THE PROJECT: The purpose of the project is threefold: create new corner nodes that are all uniformly designed in appearance, provide a public water supply to each planter so the burden of watering the individual corners will no longer fall to Parks and Recreation personnel, and attach “Edison” type lighting to the street lights along and parallel to Grand Ave. 

Although the construction of new corner nodes was the immediate goal and objective of this project, there are long term objectives that require near term policy and direction from commissioners, specifically as it relates to the continuation of Grand Ave. as a 4-lane roadway. 

The City’s Comprehensive Plan suggested the geometry of the street be changed, starting with a “road diet”, which is a reduction in travel lanes to make way for wider individual lanes of travel and changes in inset parking angles to make way for additional on-street parking spaces.          

It was the consensus of commissioners to change on-street angled parking spaces from 25 to 45 degrees, which then would trigger the road diet since the length of a 45-degree parking space would encroach into the outside lanes of a four-lane roadway. 

The primary reason for changing the angled parking spaces to 45 degrees was the significant increase in the number of available parking spaces per block. In a typical block, the increase was 13 spaces to either 20 or 21. 

Staff proposed to move all the accessible parking onto Grand Ave. at each intersection. 

The addition of handicapped parking reduced the net number of available parking spaces to 18 or 19, depending upon the block, but still a substantial increase. 

The ramps necessary to get the handicapped individual from the street to the sidewalk were thoughtfully designed and incorporated into the new islands. 

The issue of accessible parking downtown has historically not been sufficiently addressed and this project affords the opportunity for the City to rectify this situation permanently.

Since this road segment is part of Business Highway 60, staff sought out and received input from Oklahoma Department of Transportation staff at the district office in Perry on the viability of the various scenarios associated with a road diet. 

ODOT has the financial responsibility of maintaining Business 60 and as such, has equity (and veto power) in the decision process associated with any proposed changes to the road geometry and even the streetscape project itself. 

The Commission’s recommendation to change the angle of the on-street parking spaces and initiate a road diet on Grand Avenue was an acceptable change according to ODOT representatives and they further requested a formal resolution by the City to memorialize the decision and proposed project. They also provided to staff a sample agreement for the streetscape portion that addresses the additional locations where new landscaping is proposed. The boilerplate agreement essentially addresses maintenance responsibility, drainage and sight distance issues that might arise by the construction of new islands and plantings.             

A project such as this requires the services of a professional Civil Engineer to prepare plans and specifications. Holtzen Engineering Group from Enid has completed the 90 percent plans and it is anticipated the project will be out to bid in the next 60 to 90 days. 

The scope of work originally included up to 52 individual islands with plantings, but after standard traffic and civil engineering standards and practices were applied, the number of islands was reduced to 26 locations along Grand Ave. Special consideration was given to turning movements by trucks and school busses at the intersections of 1st, 5th and 6th Street. When this project is completed and the Road Diet is implemented, the net increase in available parking spaces within the Central Business district will be substantial between the railroad tracks and 7th Street, as 25-degree parking equals 182 spaces and 45-degree parking equals 280 spaces.